In 1924, Max Roach was born to Alphonse and Cressie Roach in North Carolina. When Max was four, he and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. By the age of ten, Max was playing drums in gospel bands. In 1942, Max began to perform in jazz clubs, and became one of the first drummers to play the bebop style.
In 1952, Roach, along with Charles Mingus, founded Debut Records. The record label released the famous Jazz at Massey Hall, a live concert featuring Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, and Roach himself.
In 1960, Roach, after asked to contribute to the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, composed We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, an album speaking about black history and racism. Later, in 1966, he released Drums Unlimited, an album featuring many tracks of only drums, showcasing the drums as a solo instrument in its own right.
In the 1980s, Roach began to play concerts alone, thereby further showing the drums could be enough to create music. He also began to perform duet recordings with avant-garde musicians such as Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor. Later Roach performed at a hip hop concert with Fab Five Freddy and the New York Break Dancers.
Roach passed away August 16, 2007, in Manhattan, New York.
Part of We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite: